Aircraft Spew 3% of Greenhouse Gases, EPA Says in Emissions Plan

Aircraft account for 3 percent of all U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions and warrant regulation, the Environmental Protection Agency said as it expanded a fight against climate change beyond automobiles and power plants.

As a first step, the EPA on Wednesday said it intended to declare that burning jet fuel endangered human health and welfare. The agency will take public comments before a final recommendation.

The agency also announced plans to write a rule to limit or offset the emissions, and said it would coordinate with an effort by the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization to issue new limits on aircraft exhaust.

Environmental groups pushed the EPA since 2007 to regulate aircraft emissions. The agency said U.S. planes account for 11 percent of greenhouse gases from U.S. transportation activity annually and 29 percent from all aircraft globally.

“President Obama is taking an important step on climate once again by finding that carbon pollution from airplanes poses the same danger to our climate as carbon pollution from other sources,” Joanne Spalding, an attorney with the Sierra Club, an environmental group, said in a statement.

President Barack Obama, who has made fighting climate change a top priority of his final years in office, is also planning to limit emissions from heavy-duty trucks.

Groups Concerned

Some environmental groups expressed concern that the agency’s work on aircraft will be linked to ICAO’s, which they worry won’t be strong enough.

“It is critical that EPA and the rest of the world, through the International Civil Aviation Organization, move quickly and seek meaningful greenhouse gas emission reductions,” William Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents the air pollution control agencies from 42 states, said in a statement.

Airlines for America, the main lobby group for the airline companies, said its important that the EPA not act on its own given the global nature of the industry.

“It is critical that aircraft emissions standards continue to be agreed at the international level,” Vaughn Jennings, a spokesman for the group, said in a statement before the announcement.

The EPA plans to hold a public hearing on the aircraft proposal on Aug. 11 in Washington. The public will have 60 days to comment before the EPA issues a final decision.

The EPA issued a finding in 2009 that greenhouse gases were a danger to public health, part of the agency’s effort to establish fuel-economy standards for automobiles and trucks. The same finding was used last year in proposing regulations for power plants.

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